The Modern Makagonov - Complete Repertoire against King's Indian Defence
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The starting position of the current database arises after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.h3 0-0 6.Be3.
The modern way of fighting King's Indian Defense involves a little move h2-h3. Its idea is not just to protect g4-square from ...Ng4 and ...Bg4 sorties, but also to prepare ambitious g2-g4 expansion. This can be a very effective prophylactic measure against Black's typical kingside play, as well as a springboard to White's kingside attack(!) - as discovered by the Soviet Grandmaster Vladimir Makogonov, after whom this whole system was named.
White has traditionally used a combination of Ng1-f3 and h2-h3 on moves 5 and 6 to achieve this setup, which was investigated by Grandmaster Mihail Marin in another Modern chess database.
The opening repertoire that I present in this database is based on a clever move order with Bc1-e3 and h2-h3 instead, which allows White to improve on several important aspects of the move order with Nf3, while still achieving the same strategic goals. By keeping the knight on g1, we keep flexibility on the kingside, which is important for two reasons.
Both of these reasons are related to Black's most common response 6...e5, when we close the centre with 7.d5 and intend to follow it up with 8.g4, gaining space on the kingside and fighting against Black's thematic ...f7-f5 break.
The first reason why it is more flexible to play 6.Be3 instead of 6.Nf3 lies in Black's active option 7...Nh5!? in that position. As we will see in the analysis section, while this is a legitimately critical variation after the h3, Nf3 move order, it is not a source of concern for White in a similar position after 6.Be3. This is a small, but very important practical detail.
The second reason why we keep the knight 'in the stable' for a while is that we can often execute Ng1-e2-g3 manoeuvre, which is not available in case of 6.Nf3 when the knight is usually forced to retreat to d2 in order to protect the e4-pawn. On g3, the knight is not only more actively placed than on d2, but also facilitates the Saemisch attacking setup with Be3, Qd2, h4-h5, etc. Obviously, this is also an improvement over the 6.Nf3 version of this variation.
Is there any downside to this move order if Black plays something else besides 6...e5? Well, strong Black players have tried to prove that Be3 and/or h3 are not essential developing moves with 6...c5, 6...Na6, 6...Nbd7, and 6...c6, but so far a clear antidote has not been found - White usually gets a more pleasant position against all of these moves.
Below, I give an overview of the most common variations, classified by chapters. You can find analysis of current opening theory, as well as many new ideas, in individual chapters that follow. Throughout them, I will sometimes refer to GM Marin's database on the Nf3 Makogonov variation, either for comparison purposes or as reference material, since these two databases have some complementary parts.
Finally, you will be able to check your knowledge and understanding of this system in the Test section of the database.
The first three chapters deal with the position arising after 6...e5 7.d5
In this typical King's Indian pawn structure with a blocked centre, both sides try to develop their play on the flanks as quickly as possible. Interestingly, in this variation, it is often White, not Black, who takes the initiative on the kingside.
Chapter 1 - 6...e5 7.d5 a5 - Plans with ...Na6-c5
This is Black's most common reply. With his last move, Black is taking control of b4-square and preparing knight manoeuvre to c5. At this point, we shall make an important clarification. Black has two typical ideas in this position - ...Nb8-a6-c5, putting the e4-pawn under pressure and ...Nf6-d7-c5, thus preparing the advance ...f7-f5.
In Chapter 1, I deal with the first idea. The main position of the chapter is being reached after the moves 8.g4 Na6 9.Nge2 Nc5 10.Ng3
White is basically shutting down ...f7-f5 forever, so Black has to turn to queenside for counterplay. Practice, however, shows that White's kingside play tends to be rather dangerous. Of course, Black's moves so far are not forced. On every move, I cover all the important alternatives. In the annotations to this chapter, I demonstrate how White can obtain an advantage in all the lines.
Chapter 2 - 6...e5 7.d5 a5 - Plans with ...Nf6-d7-c5
In this chapter, I consider the plans based on the manoeuvre...Nf6-d7-c5. The starting position arises after 8.g4 Na6 9.Nge2 Nd7 10.Qd2 Ndc5
This manoeuvre is considered to be the best way to meet the Makogonov with Nf3. As explained in the introduction, things are a bit different here as white knight reaches a more active g3-square, while the queen takes its place on d2, with attacking intentions. Nevertheless, this might also be the most challenging Black's response against Be3, h3 system - with one condition: if Black knows how! In my annotations to this chapter, you will see that in order to keep the balance Black needs to be very precise in all the lines. In this position, he can easily go wrong. At the same time, White's play is easier and he can choose among several playable concepts.
Chapter 3 - 6...e5 7.d5 Na6
As I already explained in the introduction, this move promises Black quicker counterplay than 7...a5. On the flip side, it allows White to expel the knight with b2-b4 at some point. Still, this is a rather double-edged move, requiring serious commitment from White since his king would then be left without the pawn shelter on the queenside.
The game usually continues along similar lines with 7...a5: 8.g4 Nc5 9.f3 c6 (9...h5 is an interesting sideline played by KID expert Gawain Jones against Fabiano Caruana) 10.Qd2 cxd5 11.cxd5 Bd7 12.Nge2
At this point, Black can choose between 12...Rc8 and 12...h5. Despite the fact that the play remains complicated in both lines, a precise play would give White a slight edge.
The second most popular option is, logically, another attack on White's centre with 6...c5
White has two options here. The most flexible continuation is 7.Nf3 (Chapters 4-6)
Fans of Benoni structures with White will be happy to learn that 7.d5 is quite playable here, as well, and will be discussed in a separate chapter (Chapter 7).
Chapter 4 - 6...c5 7.Nf3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 b6
Black usually releases the tension immediately with 7...cxd4 and after 8.Nxd4 his most ambitious reply is 8...b6 (8...a6 is also analyzed)
Here, it seems like Black can get a good game if White castles kingside and is forced to defend his e4-pawn with f2-f3, conceding weaknesses on dark squares around the king. However, I believe that White should play more ambitiously: 9.Qd2! Bb7 10.f3 preparing to castle queenside and attack with Be3-h6, h3-h4-h5, etc. The arising positions are double-edged, but we will see that White's attack is quite promising.
Chapter 5 - 6...c5 7.Nf3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Nc6
This is the classical approach which transposes into one of the topical variations of the Accelerated Dragon/Maroczy Bind after 9.Be2 Bd7 10.0-0 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.Qc2
As a matter of fact, White has enjoyed great success with it (75%!) over the last several years, putting a big question mark over the soundness of the whole system for Black.
Chapter 6 - 6...c5 7.Nf3 Qa5 (7...Na6)
This is the main alternative to 7...cxd4. Black tries to cause inconvenience to White's development by pinning the c3-knight. White should defend the pawn on e4 by 8.Bd3 and here Black tried 8...Nfd7, 8...e5, 8...Nc6, 8...cxd4 but all those attempts failed to equalize.
The other alternative for Black is 7...Na6
White has a pleasant choice here between the slow development 8.Be2 and 8.d5 transposing to the positions analyzed in the next chapter.
Chapter 7 - 6...c5 7.d5!?
This is an alternative to 7.Nf3. It is mostly a matter of preference for White players. Those who enjoy having a stable centre with extra space will probably prefer 7.d5 over 7.Nf3.
As usual in such positions, Black has two ways to attack and undermine White's centre: Most players go for the Benoni approach with 7...e6 where the main line continues 8.Bd3 exd5 9.exd5. White should go for this version of the Benoni since the bishop is not placed well on e3 in case of 9.cxd5. Still, this is fine for White because he can usually count on a small positional advantage in this structure because of the space advantage and the potentially weak d6-pawn.
The other option for Black is the Benko Gambit approach after 7...b5 8.cxb5 a6. Nevertheless, Black's idea fails to impress after 9.a4 Qa5 10.Bd2 when White is better.
Chapter 8 - 6...Na6
This is perhaps the most flexible move that Black has at his disposal. The "a6" is usually a good square for the knight in most structures in this variation, so Black just develops and does not show his cards in the centre just yet. White's most principled response is 7.g4. Here, Black is on a crossroads. He must choose between 7...c6 and 7...c5.
7...c6 is the most flexible option for Black. His two main ideas are ...e7-e5 and ...Na6-c7, followed by the flank break ...b7-b5. Here I analyze two different plans for White. 8.Bg2 and 8.Nge2 followed by a quick 9.Ng3. In both cases, White keeps a tiny initiative.
7...c5 also seems reasonable, but my analyzes prove that White should keep the slight edge.
Chapter 9 - 6...c6
This is another flexible move for Black. He can choose from one of several systems, depending on how White continues.
The simplest way to develop is 7.Nf3 when Black may try to use the position of the knight on f3 to get a favourable version of ...Nf6-h5, ...f7-f5 plan with 7...Na6 (7...a6 is analyzed in Chapter 11). This has already been tried by some strong GMs, so it should be taken seriously by White players, even if it is considered to be a sideline. White has many options at this point and they will be discussed below. I have a preference for an interesting semi-waiting move 8.Rc1! The point of this move is not to commit the bishop to e2 for now and just do something useful while waiting to see which plan Black will choose. Of course, like every strong opening concept, it contains an important tactical point that disputes Black's main idea, in this case ...Nf6-h5, ...f7-f5. The arising positions are double-edged and unexplored, but I prefer White.
Chapter 10 - 6...Nbd7
This is a fairly rare move and probably for a good reason. It is not as flexible as its alternatives and the knight is generally placed better on a6 than on d7. Still, Black has one interesting idea connected to ...a7-a6 (with this move order or 6...a6 7.Nf3 Nbd7) that White should be aware of.
After 6...Nbd7 the main line continues with the natural 7.Nf3 a6 8.Be2 (8.Qc2 is also analyzed) 8...c5 9.0-0 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Re8
We got a Hedgehog type of position. The last move was necessary to prepare ...b7-b6 without having to worry about Nd4-c6 intrusion. Here, Black gets a good position if White just plays 'natural' moves (11.Qd2 or 11.Qc2) and allows him to develop with b6, Bb7, Qc7, e6, etc. Instead, White should act more aggressively in anticipation of 11...b6. The following new idea may put Black's setup to a serious test: 11.Qa4!N
After this new move, I can't find equality for Black, the following analysis proves that White is better in this line.
Chapter 11 - Sidelines for Black on Move 6
Black's provocative 6th move in the spirit of Alekhine Defence is not without a point. He does not mind spending a tempo or two in order to provoke White into pushing his pawn so that he can later undermine it with ...e7-e6 or ...c7-c6 (or both). Of course, White should be able to prove an advantage against such an 'anti-positional' approach, but surprisingly, this is not so trivial, nor is this advantage as big as one might think. After 7.d5 Black has three possible knight jumps - 7...Nb4, 7...Nb8, 7...Ne5. I think that the first option is the most serious one, but after serious analysis, I could find an advantage for White. 7...Nb8 and 7...Ne5 fail to impress and White easily obtains a superior position.
Another interesting sideline is 6...a6 7.Nf3 c6
This system is sometimes employed against the Saemisch and Classical variations of the King's Indian Defence. Black prepares ...b7-b5, which not only allows him to develop his bishop to b7 but also attack white pawn centre from the flank (bxc4 followed by ...d6-d5 or ...b5-b4, followed by ...e7-e5 are the usual ideas). The system is a bit passive and seemingly non-threatening, but White still has to know what he is doing, especially when it comes to reactions in the centre.
The database ends with 30 interactive test positions.